A few years ago, when I was shopping for my first motorcycle, I almost bought Billy Joel’s Triumph. Almost. My story about this was published as a letter to the editor in Motorcyclist Magazine in June 2010. Here’s the original email I sent to Motorcyclist so you can see how I avoided this potentially fatally-embarassing gaffe.


From: Joseph Crivelli
Sent: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 4:47 PM
Subject: Billy Joel’s Triumph

A moment of clarity prevented me from buying Billy Joel's Triumph. This is the only Billy Joel CD I own. And I don't know why I own it.

I read with interest your article on Billy Joel’s motorcycle collection. It called to memory my experience in ‘almost’ buying one of his bikes.

In May 2008 I was shopping around for my first motorcycle. After considering several models, I honed in on the Triumph America. It suited me: the right size for a first-time rider, right price point (around $10,000 dressed up and out the dealership door), right marque (my family has a long history with Triumphs) and of all the bikes I looked at it was the one that got my heart racing the most.

Like the good frugal spender I am, I looked into used bikes once I settled on the make and model. A few clicks on Ebay turned up a neat Triumph America: just three years old, less than 500 miles on the clock, with many of the upgrades I was after. The seller was looking for $6,500. Fresh off a divorce, the $3,500 savings was attractive to me. It would have meant a day trip to Long Island to pick up the bike, but it seemed worth it.

Adding to the allure, the bike had been previously owned by none other than the Piano Man himself, Billy Joel. This was advertised prominently in the auction. The title showed his ownership clearly. His autograph graced the rear fender. And the seller claimed to have a photo showing Billy signing the bike.

It was tempting. Several friends assured me that this unique feature of the bike’s ownership would assure that it held its value. Others were entirely pragmatic: $3,500 was a whole lotta upgrades and accessories and more than a few tanks of gas.

As the deadline for bidding loomed, no bids transpired. The night the auction was scheduled to end, I camped out online watching the action. There was none. It looked like I would snake Billy Joel’s Triumph for $6,500. The seconds ticked down. I entered $6,500 and the cursor hovered over the “Place Bid” button. 5…4…3… “Joe, place the bid! What are you waiting for!!??” Then: “WAIT!!”

Just as I was about to click, I had a moment of clarity. “I HATE Billy Joel! I have NEVER liked his music. Do I REALLY want some moron singing ‘Hackensack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack!’ every time I stop for gas??? Do I really want to explain to every person who stops to admire my bike why it says ‘Billy Joel’ on my fender?”

No. I don’t. I calmly closed the browser, and the next day called Buzz at Manayunk Triumph and told him I’d take the brand-new Pacific Blue and New England White America on his showroom floor. I have never regretted my decision.


Joe Crivelli